The Second Stage of Cruelty, 1751
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)
RA Collection: Art
The second of William Hogarth's Four Stages of Cruelty, made with the intention of drawing attention to animal cruelty and, like the contemporaneous Beer Street and Gin Lane, made with the intention of reaching the audience for popular prints. As a result they are not engraved with the refinement typical of Hogarth's prints (Paulson notes that they 'have the brutal simplicity of woodcuts') and were sold less expensively. The verses under each image are probably by Hogarth's friend, the Rev. James Townley.
All four plates centre around the figure of 'Tom Nero' and the way that his increasingly barbaric mistreatment of animals leads to his own downfall. Here Nero has graduated from torturing animals as a boy to beating a horse. Nero has become a coachman who burdens the horse with an impossible weight, under which both horse and carriage collapse. Nero is not the sole culprit, however; a sleeping drayman has trapped a boy beneath the wheel of his cart, a man beats a sheep, and cruel sports such as cock-fighting are advertised.
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